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The RoundTable

Vietnam: Instant Amnesia

Winter 1991


Major Articles

  • An Interview with Dan Berrigan, SJ – Michael Bartz
  • Trying to Find a Way Home – Charlie King
  • Visions of Righteousness – Noam Chomsky
  • Looking for Truth in the Literature about Vietnam – Michael Bartz


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Regular Features

  • Why This Issue – Michael Bartz
  • Cover – Artwork by Jeremy Nantz
  • Centerfold –  Voices from the Ho Chi Minh Trail – Larry Rottmann
  • From our Mailbag
  • From Latin America – Ann Manganaro, SL
  • From Karen House – Katrina and Jim Plato
  • From Little House - Mary Ann McGivern, SL
  • RoundTable Talk – Ellen Rehg
  • Statement on the Persian GulfSt. Louis Catholic Worker Community

Why This Issue:

When I approached the Catholic Worker Community last summer with the idea of being a guest editor for this issue, I had in mind two ideas: first, the continuing uneasiness many people feel about how this country has dealt with Vietnam, the war, and its veterans these past few years; and second, my own feelings that most of the great literature that had come out of the war was being neglected- much of it unread and going out of print.  As I write now, though, over a million troops and untold machines and weapons of war stand poised in the sands of the Persian Gulf area awaiting decisions by men who have already shown their total willingness to shed blood to further their political purposes. (One wonders if we will ever know just how many Kuwaiti and Panamanian citizens died in those invasions.) So, along with past questions about Vietnam that still haunt us, we are daily bombarded with mentions of that war in this new context. This war (they speak of it inevitably) will not be like Vietnam. It will not be a half-hearted effort of a muzzled military. No hands tied behind the back this time. And on and on endlessly.

Our collective repression about Vietnam allows such tripe. Our fleeting memories of 14 million megatons of ordnance fired and dropped, 19 million gallons of chemical toxins sprayed, 10 million refugees created, and almost 2 million people killed fade into the distant past as new wars are built on the false ideas of the old ones.

This issue, then, has taken on more purpose. As you read, war may or may not already have begun. We pray that it hasn't. Our struggle for healing with Vietnam veterans can be a paradigm for other healings yet to come, and to that end we attempt here to inspire a renewed. discussion about Vietnam that can aid in that work. Noam Chomsky begins with his usual razor sharp analysis of ruling class and intelligentsia collaboration with the "approved" versions of our wars in Indochina. Daniel Berrigan offers challenging answers to a broad range of questions about the war in our lives, past and present. We are treated to a behind-the-scenes look at the writing of a song about the Vietnam Veterans Memorial by its author, folksinger Charlie King. Larry Rottmann shares with us the poetic voices of Vietnamese veterans. And I draw upon my past work with literature about the war to offer suggestions for those who would-like to read more. My student at C.B.C. High School, junior Jeremy Nantz, did the illustration for the cover.

Looking over the whole issue, I am most struck by something Dan Berrigan said: answers about healing first come out of experiences of prayer. What a challenge to us in these present bloody times as we continue to educate ourselves and others about history, and pursue that oftentimes elusive healing.

-Michael Bartz

[Editors' Note: We want to thank Michael Bartz, our guest editor, for this issue. Having done extensive reading on the Vietnam War, Michael came to us about 10 months ago with an idea of looking at this reality in our lives and how the events and ideologies of that period continue to affect many people today. So Michael, for your many hours of planning, soliciting articles, editing, and writing, you have our gratitude. Hopefully, because of your labors, more of us will see that there's more to remembering than not forgetting.]



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